Blushing for No Grape Reason
When I was much, much younger, my family took a summer vacation driving through the Finger Lakes region of New York. Among our stops were a number of wineries, and while I was well underage (I was 6 at the time), I enjoyed samples of grape juice while my parents tasted the local wines.
The grapes used in many of the famous Finger Lakes wines are not those usually referred to by wine lovers: Catawba doesn't often get a whole lot of the respect that Cabernet does, and who has ever heard of Niagara?
Turns out my local fruit farm has not only heard of Niagara grapes, the good folks there also grow them and bring them to the farmers' market.
One of the salespersons at the market stand allowed me to sample a grape before I bought, and the initial sweet, sugary taste had a follow-up kick that made me reach for my wallet. Though she said they'd also have Concord grapes later on, I knew I wanted to take a basket of these luscious beauties home and make juice.
So I did. I plucked the grapes from their stems before rinsing them and dumping them into my big pot with some water. As the water slowly came to a simmer, the grapes began to split and break down, shedding their skins and smelling so fragrant. And when at last it came time to strain the juice, I discovered that the remaining liquid had turned a vibrant pink, reminiscent of my lavender lemonade.
Because the sediment needs time to settle before another straining, I set the pan of juice into the refrigerator overnight and pulled it out this morning before my shower and breakfast. Then I strained it into a new pot and let it come up to a simmer before I added some local honey (not much, just enough to take the edge off that final sharp kick of flavor).
Two jars later, and there you have it: Niagara grape juice.
I set the jars in the refrigerator to cool today and overnight before I pop them in the freezer (if I can find room!), but already I'm looking forward to a winter morning when I enjoy a glass of that lovely juice.
The thought makes me blush already.